Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, gave an unfortunately bleak prognosis on Monday when she said that 200,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 even if we practice social distancing “almost perfectly.”
Speaking with NBC’s “TODAY,” Birx said that she is “very worried about every city in the United States” and agreed with her colleague Dr. Fauci that anywhere between 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die of this virus.
“I think everyone understands now that you can go from five to 50 to 500 to 5000 cases very quickly,” Birx said, as reported by NBC News. “I think in some of the metro areas we were late in getting people to follow the 15-day guidelines.”
“We’ve looked at the Italy data with their self-isolation, and that’s where we come up with if we do things together well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities. We don’t even want to see that,” she added.
Birx emphasized the importance of social distancing, saying that the outcome all depends on how the rest of America takes the CDC guidelines seriously.
“The best-case scenario would be 100% of Americans doing precisely what is required,” Birx said. “But we’re not sure based on the data that you’re sharing from around the world and seeing these pictures that all of America is responding in a uniform way to protect one another. So, we also have to factor that in. Cities that don’t social distance, that don’t stay at home, that believe you can have social interactions, that believe you can have gatherings in homes of 20 and 10 people even, that is going to spread the virus, even if everyone looks well.”
Dr. Birx’s comments echoed that of her colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the United States could see between 100,000 to 200,000 deaths when the COVID-19 pandemic finally subsides. He did, however, caution that these predictions are based on models and that all models are rapidly evolving, so no prediction is totally concrete.
“There are things called models,” said Fauci. “When someone creates a model, they put in various assumptions. And the model is only as good or as accurate as your assumptions. Whenever the models come in, they give a worst-case scenario and a best-case scenario. Generally, the reality is somewhere in the middle. I’ve never seen a model of the diseases that I’ve dealt with where the worst case came out. They always overshoot. So when you use numbers like a million, million and a half, 2 million, that almost certainly is off the chart. It’s not impossible, but very, very unlikely.”
“I mean looking at what we’re seeing now, you know, would say between 100 and 200,000 cases,” he added. “But I don’t want to be held to that because — excuse me, deaths. We’re going to have millions of cases. But I just don’t think we really need to make a projection when it’s such a moving target that you can so easily be wrong and mislead people.”
On Sunday, Dr. Birx also warned that no state or metro area will be spared by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No state, no metro area will be spared – and the sooner we react, and the sooner the states and the metro areas react and ensure that they’ve put in full mitigation, at the same time understanding exactly what their hospitals need, then we’ll be able to move forward together and protect the most Americans,” she said.